On Sunday, I entreated our church family to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). It's wonderfully freeing to know that walking with Jesus isn't about mechanically following a list of do's and don'ts. It’s about learning to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. But more days than not, we can find ourselves frustrated and unfruitful in our walk with Jesus. Why do we struggle with being filled? What does being filled look like? How do we even do that?
Three Types of People
To understand being filled with the Spirit, I think it's good to understand something about how we are as people. In 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:1 we learn that there are actually three types of people in the world. There is the natural person, who hasn't trusted the Gospel, and who does not accept the things of the Spirit. There is the spiritual person who has trusted the Gospel and is being guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit. And there is the fleshly person who has trusted the Gospel but is guided by their own thoughts instead of the Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit is living as a spiritual person.
Dr. Bill Bright the founder of Cru gives a wonderful explanation of this here. He emphasizes the importance of prayer and faith for the Spirit-filled life. There is the responsibility on our part to genuinely ask God to lead us and empower us by the Holy Spirit. This means we have to want His leading. We have to be willing to say to Him, "yes" with whatever it is He asks of us.
But it's not just changing the things you do, but also changing the way you do those things. There are some activities that don't bring glory to God and are destructive for us as people which we need to avoid, for example, unforgiveness. I can become convicted by the Spirit that I need to forgive someone, but then try to muster up the forgiveness on my own. This “on my own-ness” is not walking by the Spirit. Instead of trying to “do it on my own,” I need to ask God to work forgiveness in my heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. This will undoubtedly lead to concrete actions, but it is a work of the Holy Spirit in my heart. Only He has the power to recreate, heal, and renew the human heart.
Once and Done?
One other thing that is really important to note is that being filled by the Holy Spirit is a moment-by-moment way of living. It’s what Paul had in mind in Romans 12:1 when he exhorted us to “offer our bodies as living sacrifices.” It’s what Jesus had in mind when he told us to “abide” in Him in John 15. It’s a God-empowered way of following Jesus rather than a me-empowered one.
My prayer is that we would be ever-increasing in our living Spirit-filled lives.